The Best Carpet Cleaner

Whether it’s for tackling the mud your kids trailed in or just annual touching up, a carpet cleaner is designed to remove deep stains and bacteria, and preserve your carpet. To find the best machine, we spoke to three cleaning experts, wantonly ruined some pristine white carpet, and embarked on a cleaning spree with 10 carpet cleaners. Our top picks for the best home carpet cleaner knocked out tough stains while being easy to operate and hassle-free to maintain.

The 3 Best Carpet Cleaners

Best for Everyday Cleaning
Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Washer FH50150PC
Hoover
Thoughtful design and easy-to-use features give this reliable cleaner the edge.
Pros
Easy to use
Simple to clean
Abundance of accessories
Cons
Unimpressive "heated cleaning"

Why we chose it

Easy to use

At 18 lbs, the Power Scrub was one of our lightest contenders and has the maneuverable heft of the average upright vacuum. Its clean-water tank holds solution and water in separate compartments, which is a pretty nifty feature when compared to the manual (read: messy) measuring out of specific quantities required by other cleaners. The Power Scrub was also one of only two contenders (the other being the Hoover Dual V) with an auto-rinse feature that didn’t require us to trudge back and forth over damp carpet to refill the clean water tank.

Simple to clean

The Power Scrub was not just the easiest machine to clean with but also the simplest to clean out. Both its nozzle and brushes popped out easily for rinsing, which felt like a blessing after having to kneel on the floor and dig around in the other Hoovers’ and Bissells’ dirty brush rolls (the Bissells' unique side bristles also actually just rubbed any loose dirt and debris into the carpet during cleaning).

Abundance of accessories

During assembly (which simply required screwing in the cord holster), we were surprised to see the Power Scrub came with a veritable army of cleaning tools. Most of the other machines came with one or two (an extended hose and upholstery tool being the most common), but the Power Scrub’s mesh bag contained: an extended hose, upholstery tool, crevice tool, stair tool, and powered scrubbing hand tool.

Points to consider

Unimpressive “heated cleaning”

The only feature that flopped was the much emphasized “heated cleaning” capability that claimed to quickly dry the carpet with heated air. We didn’t feel any real differences in carpet dampness post-cleaning, so this feature seems somewhat irrelevant.

Best for Deep Cleaning
Bissell Big Green Professional Grade Carpet Cleaner 86T3
Bissell
A powerful machine that breezes through tough stains — for a price.
Pros
Combats deep stains
Pre-assembled and simple to use
Cons
Heavy and expensive

Why we chose it

Combatted deep stains

As we rinsed out the last water tank and surveyed our weary carpet, it was clear that the Bissell Big Green Professional Grade Carpet Cleaner 86T3 had met the challenge of our malicious staining. Where light orange and brown spots clung stubbornly to the other test patches, the Big Green impressively eliminated all traces of marinara sauce and chocolate syrup within five minutes. To our surprise, it did even better than the Rug Doctor, which was disappointing considering that brand’s reputation for deep cleaning.

Pre-assembled and simple to use

The Big Green’s large, smooth surfaces and clear-stacked clean and dirty water tanks (1.75 gallons each) made cleaning a breeze. It also won bonus points in a few other categories: It came fully assembled, and included a 12-foot hose and six-inch-wide tool for scrubbing upholstery, stairs, and weaker stains by hand.

Points to consider

Heavy and expensive

However, the Big Green’s pure stain-lifting power comes with a few serious trade-offs: At 40 pounds and an average price of around $400, it is both the heaviest and most expensive of our contenders (compared to the overall averages of 25 lbs and $242). The Big Green is definitely the Hulk of carpet cleaners, and at that size and price point, we think it might make more sense to rent when needed rather than buy. If you often need to tackle deep stains (especially greasy or sticky horrors), though, the Big Green is up for the challenge.

Best Budget Pick
Bissell PowerLifter 1622
Bissell
A no-fuss budget option for moderate stains.
Pros
Light and simple
A satisfying clean
Cons
Tough to clean the cleaner

Why we chose it

Light and simple

The Bissell PowerLifter 1622 is a barebones machine that will clean your carpet without being too heavy on your arms or pocketbook. At just 16 lbs, the PowerLifter was easy to push around even for petite testers (who, by contrast, struggled to continually push the Bissell Big Green and Rug Doctors around even for a few minutes). Testers agreed that it was about as hefty as “a lightweight vacuum,” and didn’t cause discomfort with extended use.

A satisfying clean

We were pleasantly surprised to find that despite its size, the PowerLifter cleaned about as well as the more expensive Hoovers and Bissells (although none came close to the Big Green). As long as your main concern is just lifting light to moderate stains from your carpet, the PowerLifter will do a decent job for a great price.

Points to consider

Tough to clean the cleaner

While the PowerLifter’s nozzle popped off easily for rinsing, we found a bunch of fuzzy, dirty gunk caked on the roof above the non-detachable brushes that was hard to access and pretty gross. We didn’t bear too much of a grudge against the PowerLifter for this, though, since we discovered that cleaning almost all carpet cleaners can be unpleasant and difficult and we were able to scrape most of it off.

Guide to Carpet Cleaners

How to get the most out of your cleaner

Vacuum first and last

For a deeper clean, vacuum your carpet before cleaning. Jeff Bishop, Director of the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), told us it’s important to begin the cleaning process with “dry soil removal – vacuuming carpet to remove as much hair and lint, and particle soils (e.g., sand, quartz, gypsum, limestone, carbon, clay) as practical.” After the carpet has been cleaned and is completely dry, vacuum again to pick up any remaining debris.

Slower is better

Move the carpet cleaner slowly and deliberately. The slower you go, the more thorough the cleaning process will be.

Blot, don’t rub

If you get a deep stain on your carpet, quickly blot off the excess (don’t rub it in with water, which will spread the stain and embed it more deeply into the carpet fibers). Vacuum off any remaining loose debris, and then run over it with a carpet cleaner as soon as possible.

Always finish with rinsing

Rinse your carpet after cleaning to remove any traces of detergent, which can leave your carpet hard and sticky if it dries. Some machines auto-rinse while cleaning, but make sure to read your user manual carefully to see if you have to refill the clean water tank.

Clean your cleaner

To keep your machine running properly, clean the brushes regularly. Make sure it isn’t clogged up with debris, especially hair.

Keep it consistent

Angie’s List suggests deep cleaning your carpet every 12-18 months, depending on the size of your household and how heavy soilage tends to be. For higher-traffic areas, you may need to clean more often.

Carpet Cleaner FAQ

Are carpet cleaner chemicals safe?

Because cleaning solution is a fragranced product, manufacturers aren’t required to disclose exact ingredients. While we didn’t experience any problems with the cleaning solutions during cleaning or disposal, you can protect yourself and the environment from potential allergens and toxins by making sure the area is well-ventilated and that you dispose of wastewater down a toilet or sewer-connected drain.

Does your carpet warranty allow cleaning?

Many carpet warranties require deep cleanings every 12-18 months, but in some cases, using a carpet cleaner can actually void your carpet warranty. Be sure to read the fine print. Natural fibers, such as wool and silk, and especially thick fabrics (think: shag rugs), should always be professionally cleaned. Synthetic fibers, such as nylon and triexta, can and should be cleaned regularly. According to Jeff Bishop, Director of the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), “Around 95-97% of carpet today is made with minimally absorbent synthetic pile fiber (i.e., nylon, polyester, triexta, olefin). Fibers are polymers – plastics – and water doesn’t harm them.” Just be careful not to over-wet your carpet, or neglect rinsing out residual detergent, which might cause your carpet to quickly resoil.

Should you buy a carpet cleaner?

Homeowners with children or pets may want to invest in a carpet cleaner. If you live in a small apartment, rent, or don’t need to deep clean your carpet more than once a year, it’s probably more economical to rent a machine. For cleaning natural fibers or especially large and difficult stains, it’s safest to call in the pros, who use much more powerful machines and chemicals.

When should you clean your carpet cleaner?

To ensure a longer life for your carpet cleaner, clean it after each use, especially focusing on the brushes and tanks, since dried-up gunk can form and become much more difficult to clean off later on. If you’re renting a carpet cleaner, make sure you clean all parts thoroughly to avoid being charged a fee upon return.

The Best Carpet Cleaners: Summed Up

Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Washer FH50150PC
Bissell Big Green Professional Grade Carpet Cleaner 86T3
Bissell PowerLifter 1622
Best for Everyday Cleaning
Best for Deep Cleaning
Best Budget Pick
Weight
18 lbs
40 lbs
16 lbs
Warranty
2 years
5 years
1 year
Tank Size
1 gallon
1.75 gallons
0.75 gallons